When searching for an Aboriginal language of the region where I come from, I came across the Muurrabay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative, funded by the Australian Government. Their website can be found here:

The organization believes in the importance of indigenous languages for the maintenance of Aboriginal culture and heritage. They focus on the Gubaynggirr language and culture and have set up a weekly language oral practice as well as developing teaching materials. If you click on the links you can find information about some different Aboriginal languages.

As I didn’t grow up in Australia I never learned anything about Aboriginal languages in school and almost no one I know seems to care at all. Therefore I thought it was interesting to find some information about the local language, which I have written about below.

Gathang – a language from the NSW Coast

Gathang is spoken by the Birrbay, Wirrimay and Guringay people. Their territories spanned from the Wilson River, near Port Macquarie all the way south to Port Stephens and westward to Gloucester. They had close relationships to surrounding peoples.

Gathang is a Pama-Nyungan language and has many cognates and structural similarities with the language from the Hunter River and Lake Macquarie. It also has many cognates with Gumbaynggirr and Dhanggati.

Today many are involved in the revitalisation of Gathang in artworks, speeches, the radio and naming things, as well as teaching children, as seen in the link attached below.

Gathang has three vowels (i, a and u) and the long version of each as well as 13 consonants, with the voiced counterparts being used for spelling. It has a system of noun suffixing for roles like subject, object and agent, instrument, location etc. Verbs have three tenses, past, present-habitual and future. There are other suffixes conveying meanings similar to auxiliary verbs in English. The default word order is ‘agent – object- verb’ but there is free word movement.

There are few historical records of Gathang of low quality. The earliest word list was published in 1887, a description and another word list in 1900. More work was done and in the 1960s recordings were made. A grammar and dictionary was compiled by Amanda Lissarrague in 2010 which will serve as a reference for the production of teaching and learning materials.


Minyang nyura wuba-li-yn?

what       you.all do-ing-PRES

What are you doing? (A common way of greeting is to ask a question.)


Nyura      yii-gu      mara-la      barray-gu.

you.all here-to come-have country-to.

You have come here, to this country.


(Yii barraba barray.)

this my       country

This is my country.


Yii Gathang-guba barray.

this Gathang-‘s country

This is Gathang country.


Gathay nyiirun.

go-will we.all

Let us go together.



By Nora Salter



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